The discomfort was soon overcome and after receiving some initial news about my extended family it was on to looking at horses. The first exciting stop was at a big stud in the Rheinland, north of Aachen: "Gestuet St Ludwig" the place where H. Schmorl got his Hanoverian stallion "Graf Landau" from. A very impressive estate where one could have lunch out on yard's floor.
I was introduced to several stallions 13 in all but my main interest was of course the very highly rated ( 277 index point dressage) stallion DONNERSCHLAG von Donnerhall-Pik Koenig. I was told some American offered recently $US1m -- only to be turned down.
My next stop was Kevelaer to visit my daughter Britta and her husband Heiner and they told me about this nearby, now "useless" American air base and ammunition depot.
Since the German reunification and the general breakdown of Communism this depot became superfluous -- and what to do with the huge complex?
Trust horse people -- a proposal was put and now it is becoming the Federal Training Centre for trotting horses. The spacious and very solidly built concrete bunkers are perfect horse stables having about 6 roomy boxes plus other facilities. These bunkers are cool in summer and warm in winter.
He is owned by Broadstone Stud, a beautiful stud farm run by John Rose and his wife Dawn in the most professional fashion.
We were expected at 10am and after a cuppa things just reeled off, six warmblood stallions in hand: LANDMARK (Lancier/Goldstern) danish; the hanoverian WEST COUNTRY (Weltmeyer/Wenzel) and AMERIGO VESPUCCI (Airport/Furioso); the warmblood stallions CHICAGO (Calypso/Furioso II) and LADY'S MAN (Landmark/Demonstrator) and finally the TB stallion OUR JOCK (Daring March / Sweet Jane).
Needless to say that Demonstrator was my favourite however Broadstone West Country gave me little goosebumps - a beautiful young stallion.
It took me a few days to recover and digest all these impressions only to go on to the next super-show of performance horses: TURNIER DER SIEGER in my home town Muenster, "The Tournament of Winners (Champions)" held every year over 3 days. I watched the dressage on the front lawn of the grand Chalet of Muenster. What a treat for the eye - olympic medal winners not one, a whole lot of them, performing: Isabel Werth - Klaus Balkenhol - Monika Theodorescu - Britta Hannoever Dr Reiner Klimke (as spectator) and his children Michael and Ingrid Klimke only to name a few of the competitors and a few hundred meters away the Show Jumping elite: names like Uli Kirchhoff, the Gold medal winner in Atlanta with 'Juex de Pommes' who died tragically from a straight "system overload" a few days after arriving back in Germany.
Too many names to list, a just incredible show to watch. I only thought how lucky the locals were to be able to watch that every year -- NZ is so far away from everything.
A few days later, right next door in Warendorf we watched the Federal Championship "Bundes-Championat Material Pruefung '96": This competition comprises all Warmblood breeds of Germany -
We were leaning on the rails, right up front, next to me stood a lady with a young black Labrador pup - not a common breed in Germany. I pointed this out to my cousin Rainer by saying that a black Lab was quite a common dog here at home in NZ - which prompted the lady to ask where that might be.
I replied: 'Neuseeland'.
This made her even more excited as she went on to say that there is a black Hanoverian stallion near a town starting with "W", she could not recall the name.
I asked: "Wanganui?" Yes, she said that's it and looked dumbfounded that I knew.
I quickly let her off the hook telling her that DYNAMIT was my horse - well her daughter had visited Vollrath Stud in 1995 and so the news got to Germany - but the sequence of events goes on, it turned out that it was Mrs Kaiser from Grevenbroich a town only about 10 km away from 'Gut Vollrath' the farm I grew up on .....and of course they knew my family etc. But if you think: 'What a coincidence!'....read on....
Next to the lady stood a young mother with her child and she carefully asked, if she got that right that we spoke of a stallion called Dynamit.
After confirming that it was a black horse with a narrow blaze and three white socks, she asked me to stay, she was going to fetch her father - It turned out that they bought Dynamit as a yearling and prepared him for the Koerung - licensing at age 2 1/2.
The gentleman told me what Dr Wilkens had mentioned on his visit in 1992 -- at the auction after the Koerung there was intense interest in Dynamit -- we are talking 1983 - and he went to Herrn Noerenberg (of whom I bought Dynamit in 1991) for over DM 80.000 (about NZ$120.000) at the time when a very good young stallion was sold for about DM 25.000 - 30.000. - Well, you can believe me this story made me feel real good and I think NZ is very lucky to have Dynamit here.
All this happening was a adrenalin shot and my journey went on to Adelheidsdorf, the Stallion Testing Station, where I found that Herr Winter, the manager, already expected me. Dr Bade had been talking to him. I received VIP treatment with a guided tour through the compound and looking a the great stallions: WORLD CUP I, WELTMEYER, BRENTANO II - they were boxed next to each other - amazing!
I had lunch with Herr Winter and some of the Bereiter and made my way up towards the river Elbe, Buekau 4, the farm of Friedrich and Elisabeth Jahncke.
How nice to see a real farming operation, where committed horse breeding is truly a passion, but a sideline Bueckau a small cluster of very old, however beautifully modernised farm buildings.
Of course we went to have a look at the horses and I learned quite a bit from Friedrich on a one to one basis how to look at a horse.
That night Elisabeth spoilt us with a lovely dinner and Friedrich with the liquid stuff .... all night... and out came the brandy - Elisabeth reckoned I must have hit a soft spot because Friedrich, as a rule, stays with his wine.
And I was told one never buys a horse after midnight.
After a short sleep I went off to Verden for a brief visit of the "mother house".
Britta Zuengel look after me very well - as she always does. She informed me that I was invited by Dr. Wilkens to stand with the Committee (Jahncke, Wilkens, Bade, Wassmann) as an observer (eyes & ears) on the pre-selection of this years 2 1/2 yr old colts heading for licensing (Koerung).
My sister Ingrid took me on 12 September '96 to Engter, one of the numerous locations for pre-selection for which 30 colts had been entered. After only two hours five colts had made it through to the Koerung, one was on the reserve list.
Here is in short what happened:
My heart beats for one of the 6, a liver chestnut colt by WELTBUERGER (Weltmeyer) out of a BRENTANO II mare (individual Dressage index of his sire & ancestors is 141 +). Needless to say that I did not sleep too well that night, my head felt like a paddock full of colts.
Since I could not get this dark chestnut out of my head - I did something about it.
After contacting the breeder/rearer by phone I visited the Heitgress Farm only to find out that I had been there as a 13/14-year-old on a school field-day and yes I have old photos to prove it. The old mother Heitgress was most delighted that I could share names with her from the gone-by school days - her younger son Hans was my class mate.
Well there was rapport and a deal was swiftly but carefully done, sealed by some nice cake, coffee, Schnaps and a solid handshake.
He was licensed on 5.12.96 in Verden and started his performance test at Adelheidsdorf on 4.8.97 going to 11.11.97.
It's quite natural that we awaited with some tension and excitement the outcome and grading of his 100 day test. Herr Heitgress captured the final days on video and it is quite a task to try to understand how and what - without going into the politics of things here is the brief what happened:
Three weeks before the final exams under the test riders, the State Stud Master, Dr Bade, sent me an interim report, saying that WORLDWIDE was clearly below average (compared to his class mates) in jumping, however that would be easily compensated through his tendency for dressage and high rideabilty.
Dr Bade expected as a final result an above average placing for WW. Well, that did not happen, WW was judged on the final day with a note 4 in jumping under saddle which put him into 34 place from 40.
In Rideabilty he scored 16/40 hence the purpose and my expectations regarding a dressage sire were fulfilled and I was very pleased with this outcome as the competition in Adelheidsdorf is extreme.
After all one is looking at the top 40 colts of a very selective breeding system.
And there certainly can't be any question about his blood line's suitability -
(sire line) Weltbuerger / Weltmeyer / World Cup I / Woermann / Absatz / Eisenherz I
(dam line) Brentano II / Bolero / Pandur / Grande / Garibaldi II
The Hanoverian Verband in Germany denied registration as the judgment of his jumping had dragged the total score below 90 points.
After this a flurry of calls between Germany and NZ happened with no shift in the total control system. It would lead to far to carry on and recite quotations etc.
I had to make my decision and it seems quite reasonable to me after 20 years of following to become independent of a brick wall attitude and control.
Here I must say it seems odd that "unbranded/unregistered hanoverian stock" becomes part of the play once they have done well to name only one e.g. MOSAIC II.
It is my belief that NZ Warmblood breeding has become of age, we must unite, pull together for a wide range of reasons and above all we should trust our own judgment - that does not mean that we should close our eyes and ears to reasonable guidance from anybody. But we certainly must resist to be pocketed by a marketing system.
The fact is that WORLDWIDE arrived at Vollrath on 22. Jan. 1998 - to our great delight. It was hot and humid and the young boy lost rapidly condition in this strange but free environment. However he has picked up in good time and is in very fine nick now.
I consider myself very lucky to have picked two stallions with an absolute outstanding temperament. Just like Dynamit, Worldwide is a darling of a horse and an absolute joy to ride. When he is under saddle going out with other horses he is just another hack, his behaviour is impeccible. Let's hope that stays so as Jutta is expected to ride him competitively in dressage when he is ready to come out - 1999/2000.
At home on 'his turf' - he lets absolutely everyone know: "look at me, I am the stallion."